Blagojevich convicted on 1 minor count; retrial planned

The jury trying Rod Blagojevich's corruption case deadlocked on 23 of 24 counts Tuesday, including that he tried to sell the Senate seat of President Barack Obama.

Eric Y. Exit

CHICAGO -- A federal jury deadlocked Tuesday on 23 of 24 charges against former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, including the most explosive of all, that he tried to sell an appointment to President Barack Obama's former Senate seat.

Blagojevich was convicted on a single, less serious count of lying to federal agents.

The judge declared a mistrial on the other counts, and prosecutors pledged to retry the case as soon as possible.

"This jury shows you that the government threw everything but the kitchen sink at me," Blagojevich said outside court. "They could not prove I did anything wrong, except for one nebulous charge from five years ago."

One juror said the panel was deadlocked 11-1 in favor of convicting Blagojevich of trying to auction off the Senate seat.

Juror Erik Sarnello, 21, of Itasca, Ill., said one woman on the jury "just didn't see what we all saw." Sarnello said the counts involving the Senate seat were "the most obvious."

Other jurors tried to persuade the holdout to reconsider, but "at a certain point, there was no changing," he said.

Blagojevich showed no emotion as the verdict was read. Before jurors came in, he sat with his hands folded, picking nervously at his fingernails. He and his lawyer said they would appeal the conviction.

The verdict came on the 14th day of deliberations, ending an 11-week trial during which a foul-mouthed Blagojevich was heard on secret FBI wiretap tapes saying the power to name a senator was "(expletive) golden" and that he wasn't going to give it up "for (expletive) nothing."

The count on which Blagojevich was convicted included accusations that he lied to federal agents when he said he did not track campaign contributions, which carries a sentence of up to five years in prison.

But the jury did not convict him on a related allegation that he kept a "firewall" between political campaigns and government work. Some of the more-serious charges, such as racketeering, carried up to a 20-year penalty.

Blagojevich vowed to appeal the single conviction and declared that he was a victim of persecution by the federal government. He said that he wants the "people of Illinois to know that I did not lie to the FBI."

It had become clear that jurors were struggling with the case. Last week they told the judge they had reached a unanimous decision on just two counts and had not even considered 11 others. There was no explanation about whether they later disagreed.

As the jurors filed into the courtroom Tuesday, many appeared nervous, some looking at the floor as Judge James Zagel read the verdict form to himself, then passed it to a bailiff.

The jurors did not remain at the courthouse to explain their decisions. "They're going home," said Joel Daly, a spokesman for Zagel. "A lot would like to talk to media folks, but they are plain tired."

After the verdict was read, the former governor's wife, Patti Blagojevich, leaned over in her chair, shaking her head.

Jurors did not reach a verdict on any of the four counts against Robert Blagojevich, the former governor's brother.

Zagel set a hearing for Aug. 26 to decide the manner and timing of the retrial.

One former prosecutor said the government will come back with a tougher case next time.

"And the government has the resources to keep trying until they get a conviction, and they probably will," said Phil Turner, the former federal prosecutor. "And Blagojevich is running out of resources. It is a war of attrition the government can win."